STONEHAM, Mass. -- There is little doubt Springfield Cathedral will spend much of the offseason discussing the would’ves, could’ves and should’ves during its abbreviated stay in the MIAA Division 1A Super 8 tournament.
For a majority of the regular season the Panthers reined supreme, basking in the glow as the top-rated high school hockey program in the state. However, what they accomplished from December through February could not be replicated come March.
In Friday night’s second game of its best-of-three opening round series against Malden Catholic at Stoneham Arena, Cathedral, the No. 2 seed, was eliminated, falling hard to the seventh-seeded Lancers 4-0. Malden Catholic completes the series sweep after taking Game 1 on Sunday.
The Lancers (14-6-3), owners of the past two Super 8 crowns, will now continue in their quest for a third. They move on to the semifinal round Wednesday at Tsongas Arena (time TBA) against the winner of the Catholic Memorial vs. BC High series.
“We played within our system and stuck to our game plan," Lancers head coach John McLean said. “Give Springfield credit, they are a really good team. We just happen to be playing well at the right time. We had a little bump in the road earlier in the year and the kids became a team at some point during that time and things are working for us right now."
With their backs firmly pressed against the wall, the Panthers (16-3-4) had no options but to come out and play with a high-sense of urgency and poise in the hopes of prolonging their season. For the first 25 minutes they did just that, matching the Lancers shift for shift. But things altered dramatically following Matt Filipe’s put back goal at 9:55 of the middle period putting Malden Catholic ahead 1-0.
As good of an output the Panthers put forth early on, Filipe’s tally would prove deflating. Just minutes prior to the score, Cathedral was feeling good about itself having killed off a pair of Lancer power play opportunities.
Yet despite trailing by a goal heading into the final frame, the Panthers continued to play sloppy inside their zone. During the first 30 minutes, Cathedral committed multiple turnovers due to consistent pressure by the Lancers. However, the Panthers didn’t pay for any of those mistakes. In the third, though, it was a different story all together.
Just 48 seconds into the period, sophomore Ara Nazarian put back a rebound, off a turnover, into a wide open net after Panther goaltender John Liquori (31 saves) left his feet and was out of position thus extending Malden Catholic’s lead to two goals and giving them the game for that matter.
“This win was good, but our ultimate goal is to make it to the Boston Garden [in the Super 8 final], so we just have to get after it," Nazarian said. “We’re playing well but we’re not totally at the top of our game yet but we’re close. When we get there we are going to be a scary team to play against."
The Lancers extended their advantage to three goals at 8:40. Playing short handed, Nazarian took the puck away from a Cathedral defender just to the left of Liquori. Upon gaining control, Nazarian skated in and roofed a shot over Liquori’s catching glove. The short-handed marker was Nazarian’s third in two games. A power-play goal from Casey Fitzgerald with just 39 seconds to go closed it out.
“Malden Catholic is a great team,” Cathedral head coach Brian Foley said. “We came out hard and I felt in the first period the kids played with a lot of energy. But Malden Catholic is a tough team to control. I expect them to keep playing well in this tournament. For us, we had a great season and I’m proud of my team. I think our program is in very good shape with all the young kids we have coming back. We’ll hang with the disappointment of this one for a while but we will use it as motivation for next year.”